Lift to viewing gallery and new cafe also part of £23M revamp plans
WESTMINSTER ABBEY is to get a huge crown for its roof, as well as an outside lift and new cafe in a £23M revamp.
"It's extremely exciting," said Dean of the Abbey, the Very Rev John Hall. "It's the first major development here for a long time."
He's right about that. The plan would mean the biggest change to the Abbey in 250 years.
The new crown or "corona", as they're calling it, would be placed on top of the intersection of the cross shape of the church, currently inhabited by a concrete "stubby little tower", in the Dean's words. It's the pyramid in our picture.
"If you look at all the great churches, there is a dome, tower or spire. The crossing is the place for that sort of distinction," said Hall.
It is believed the Prince of Wales, famous for his antagonism to new architecture, has already been consulted on the design of the crown-roof, which would be right above the spot he would receive the crown-proper at his coronation.
"The abbey remains unfinished over the site of every coronation since that of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day 1066," added Hall.
"Now is the time to consider afresh what should be built there.”
While the corona is the most significant of the planned changes architecturally, from the viewpoint of the visitor, the glass lift might be more important.
Set to take people up the south face of the Abbey to the upper gallery, it promises great views over central London. Thirsty work all that sightseeing, so the new cafe in a redeveloped cellar of the Abbey is a welcome addition, too.
All the work is due to be finished by 2013, in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.